Donald Trump Jr. spent nearly eight hours Wednesday being grilled by the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. By all accounts, Trump Jr. was relatively forthcoming.
But when the questions turned to what he may have told his father about the infamous June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower with Russians he believed may have had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump Jr. came up with a novel defense: An attorney had been present for his talks with his father, so those conversations are shielded by “attorney-client privilege.”
This is silly. “Attorney-client privilege” shields conversations between attorneys and clients. It does not cover conversations between two non-lawyers like Trump Jr. and his father simply because there happened to be an attorney in the room. Since both Trumps are the subjects of an investigation, any advice from one could implicate the other. No defense attorney with half a brain is going to allow that.
It is also very convenient for Trump Jr. because the questions surrounding who knew what and when about the June 9 meeting are a central part of the investigation into collusion between the campaign and Russia.
By this new standard, the Trumps should have a lawyer present at every family gathering, just as a precaution — which is good news for Trump Jr.'s half-sister, Tiffany Trump, who is reportedly in law school right now. Every family reunion is now potentially billable as soon as she passes the bar.
In the end, the committee does not seem to have been able to compel Trump Jr. to answer the question. But as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night, if Congress tolerates witnesses like Trump Jr. making up new standards for shielding conversations, it will be much harder for investigators to learn the truth about what happened in 2016, even while making it obvious that those involved have something to hide.